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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Outer Banks

My dream is to one day own a house at the beach. Lounging on the shore,  reading a book while hearing the waves as they crash, feeling the surf spray on my sun-burned body, smelling the brine of the ocean and hearing birds caw in the background is my idea of bliss.



If I had a job that provided a  pension and health insurance that I could retire from I would have a long time ago. Unfortunately, I didn't think ahead when I was younger, or, in reality, I felt I was "too creative" to work "for the man" at some city/state/federal agency -- how boring! -- and opted to own businesses instead, where it was me alone (80's & 90's) or my husband and I alone (90's until now) paying ourselves, with no retirement plan nor  group health insurance.  Silly me. However my dream is still attainable as my "retirement plan" is the Brooklyn house when we sell it. Lucky me.

Our Roanoke home is located in a beautiful part of the country, but mountains and valleys are not where I want to spend my golden years. We will keep it, not only because my son will be living in it, but the location is a good one in case of tragedy, whether that "tragedy" be man-made or nature made.  Ideally, my plan would be to locate somewhere that is within one day driving distance to Roanoke, and near a beach. Even after selling my Brooklyn home, I would not be able to afford a place anywhere along the beaches of Brooklyn, Queens, or Long Island so New York is out. Same goes for New Jersey...besides, other than a couple of days spent in Atlantic City, I'm just not a fan of that state. I'd consider Maine, but my husband thinks it's too cold...same with all the other New England states.

Next up are the Mid Atlantic states. I have not been to any beaches in Maryland or Delaware so can't weigh in on them. The only beach I've been to in Virginia is Virginia Beach and that's a no-go. Beach is nice, but the area is too crowded, too commercial, too military, too touristy, just too-too.

Now we get to the state that I am most leaning to...North Carolina. The furthest away from our home to a beach there is less than 7 hours. We've been to Ocean Isle Beach and Wrightsville Beach. Love them both, but went to them before I decided that one day I wanted to live near a beach, so I will have to visit the surrounding area again before making a Zillow account on those areas. I tried to book a hotel for last week at both places but couldn't find anything available so I opted to check out another North Carolina beach possibility, and one we'd never been to before, the Outer Banks.

I knew nothing about the Outer Banks other than most people rent houses there.



I am not into renting a house as that means I will have to perform all the same duties in that house as I do in this house. That is not what I consider a vacation. Instead I searched high and low for a room that was either ocean front or had ocean view. No point going to the beach if you don't have that. I was surprised at how booked everything was there too, and how expensive the rooms were, but not as expensive as Wrightsville Beach is. I finally found something that looked decent in Kill Devil Hills. What a weird name for a city! Unfortunately, the pictures were deceptive, and I blame myself for not calling and asking if ocean view meant I had a balcony to sit on to view the ocean. We didn't. So, we paid more for ocean view, which is all it was, a view of the ocean from the inside of our room but too far from the shore.  Although I could probably spend a lot more on it, this post is not going to be a bash on the hotel. It's really about what I thought of the Outer Banks. Let's just say, it only took a couple of days to realize it's not a retirement contender.



Like I stated earlier, I love the beach. Not only do I love lounging on the beach, I enjoy going in the ocean. My husband, who once thought he would one day be a marine biologist, does not feel the same way. When I go to the beach, it brings me back to my childhood -- where we spent most days -- either at Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach, or Coney Island. When we weren't baking grilled cheese and bologna sandwiches wrapped in tin foil under the hot sun, or chasing down the fudgie wudgie man, we were jumping in, under, and over the waves. I can't swim, probably because I didn't spend much time in a pool, but I can float on my back, for a little bit, in salt water. The rest of the time I'm usually neck deep bobbing like a cork that fell in a punch bowl.

The first thing I noticed about the OBX (quickly learned OBX on those oval stickers on a lot of car windows was the abbreviation for Outer Banks) was the color and temperature of the water. It was grayish,  darker than I thought it would be, and much much colder than I thought as well. The water up north at Brooklyn beaches and Emerald Coast NC ones are way warmer. On my first day I only went up to my ankles because it was so frigid and was disappointed to find how horrible the sand in the surf felt under my feet. It wasn't smooth at all. It felt like shards of broken shells and hurt to even walk on it. I wondered how far out it went, but didn't explore because the water was so cold. There were hardly any shells on the beach, none unbroken, and if we had gone with the kids when they were young other than them probably chasing all the little crabs peeking out from under the sand, they would have been disappointed too. The ocean was so calm that it didn't make sense to me why there would be so many broken shards.



Even if I didn't go in the water I still enjoyed just being on the beach. I did take a dip in the unheated hotel pool which felt good as it was warmer than the ocean.

Paddle boarding on the Atlantic Ocean
The next day it rained so no beach for us. Instead we visited Manteo which is where that other Roanoke is, the Lost Colony of Roanoke. The town itself is cute, but there really wasn't much to see where the actual colony was. We had planned on attending the play that night but since it was outdoors, and still raining, we didn't bother. Here's a couple of shots of the settlement.




Spanish moss


When we next went to the beach it was like we were at a different beach than we were two days prior. The waves were crazy strong and now it made sense as to why the ocean floor was like a sharp dump of broken shells.




The sounds of the crashing waves were amazing, but the pull of them, even as I stood only ankle deep, was scary. I couldn't imagine even going up to my calves as the undertow was so strong.



Those waves were so high and powerful I was scared for the parents who were letting their children go near them. I was on watch the whole time. Any child that was even near the surf I worried about. One guy had one of those sand chairs wedged in right by the shore and I watched as a crazy wave came in and tumbled him out of it! I couldn't imagine letting my child go into that ocean. I heard someone say in the breakfast room that morning that there were riptides. A riptide can pull you out overwhelm you in mere seconds. When I asked the front desk person if she had heard any idea what the weather was going to be that day she said, "You're on the Outer Banks, it changes from minute to minute." Yeah, no, the Outer Banks will not be on my short list.

Always wanted to surf...those days are over!
There were two things I really liked about OBX...the fresh seafood and the thrift stores. I have to say every restaurant we went to was really good and I have had my fill of sea scallops and shrimp to last a while. Some of my recommendations are: Slice, a pizzeria where as the name implies, you can just grab a slice of pizza if that's all you want. There are many varieties, all looked yummy. And their pizza was so delicious I went back to have another fresh mozzarella, Roma tomato, garlic & basil slice twice. You can also get a glass of wine while you wait.

Trio was the exact restaurant I have wanted to open in Roanoke for the last 20+ years...a place where you can get wine, cheese, beer and live acoustic music. They also had a store in the front where you can take out goodies. Delicious! Click here for my Trip Advisor Trio review.  Josephine's Sicilian Kitchen was another favorite. Real Italian food, in an intimate setting where the menu changes weekly. They do not take reservations so if you want to get in without a long wait I recommend going when it first opens at 5:00pm. Click here for my Trip Advisor review of Josephine's. If you want something a little more fancier, for that special occasion, I recommend the Colington Cafe, a French restaurant in what was once a home in Collington which is right near Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills.

I loved going to all the thrift stores. My favorite was Class and Trash which was like an affordable Black Dog Salvage yard. We got some neat things and had I had room we probably would have brought back a lot more "stuff."

Besides the ocean water, the most disappointing event we experienced was a wine tasting event which took us 45 minutes to get to as it was at the end of the OBX in Cutterick. There were only two vineyards sampling, and three beer breweries. I don't drink beer so for $15 it was a waste as the pour was literally a thimble size pour of five different wines. Altogether it would not have filled the glass. I  now know I hate North Carolina grapes, way too sweet with a musky aftertaste. At least there was some nice scenery. There was no way I was climbing the lighthouse and paying $10 to be out of breath and in pain, but it was pretty to look at.






There was no way I was leaving without getting in that ocean so on our last day I braved the cold, waves, and rough bottom and did a quick run in. I was stopped about knee high by a powerful wave which knocked me down. By the time I got up Frank was already at the shore in case he had to rescue me. I got out quickly.




All in all it was good to get away, but with the temperatures soaring into the high nineties in Roanoke, this week at the beach would probably have been a better call.



My husband is pushing for us to consider Florida as a possibility, but I'm not too keen on it. He thinks Maine is too cold. I think Florida is too hot. I'm sure there are other beaches between Maine and Florida we could consider. If you know of any please drop a comment!